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Hot start could bring Deadline intrigue for Rox

March 27, 2017

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The cart is at July 31, while the horse hasn't been born. In other words, it's time to dream of where the Rockies will stand at the non-waiver Trade Deadline. Their aspirations, of course, are to be making decisions to foster a postseason run.By signing closer Greg

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The cart is at July 31, while the horse hasn't been born. In other words, it's time to dream of where the Rockies will stand at the non-waiver Trade Deadline. Their aspirations, of course, are to be making decisions to foster a postseason run.
By signing closer Greg Holland, lefty reliever Mike Dunn and first baseman Ian Desmond (who will miss the beginning of the year with a broken left hand, but could be back in April), the Rockies took themselves off the "wait 'til next year" tract. The Dodgers and Giants still are favored in the National League West, but there is enough experience mixed with youthful talent to put the Rox on the list of clubs that can find their way to the postseason.
That's why it's hard to find the annual talk of trading right fielder Carlos Gonzalez at the Deadline. It didn't happen at any previous Trade Deadline or during an offseason because the Rockies plan on using him in a late run.

And last year showed that Jeff Bridich, in his third season as general manager, is not going to make a hasty decision.
Colorado was 40-48 at the All-Star break when Bridich made the boldest statement possible. Often, teams have given up by then, but he said that he thought the Rockies could make a postseason run. By the Trade Deadline, they were solidly in NL Wild Card contention and still had Gonzalez -- a high-priced power hitter who one of several teams could have taken had Bridich had an early fire sale.
Alas, Colorado's lack of bullpen depth and the loss of star rookie shortstop Trevor Story, who had provided a power bat and solid defensive range and arm strength, nixed the playoff dreams. So Bridich stuck with the depth he has built through amateur acquisitions and trades, and the Rockies joined the Phillies and Tigers as teams that didn't make a deal.

Now, go back to the last two times Colorado made the postseason, 2007 and '09.
Starting pitching is often the focus of teams looking to make a push. Yet, neither time did the Rockies make a major Trade Deadline deal for an established starter. The 2007 rotation was riddled by injuries, but many of the starts were taken by callups Ubaldo Jimenez and Franklin Morales, with journeyman Mark Redman also finding work.
The 2009 club had five guys make most of the starts. When the Rockies needed help in September, they made a waiver deal with the White Sox for Jose Contreras.
The 2009 team, under general manager Dan O'Dowd, made the shrewdest Trade Deadline deal in club history to receive reliever Rafael Betancourt from the Indians for Minor League pitcher Connor Graham. Betancourt became one of the team's most successful relievers. Graham never made it to the Majors.
If the Rockies are in contention at the Trade Deadline, expect them first to examine if they can make a deal without reducing their starting pitching depth. It's not just the names at the top of the prospect list, but pitchers such as lefty Sam Howard and righties Yency Almonte, Zach Jemiola and Ryan Castellani (all of whom were in big league camp). Colorado would have to want someone to part with any of those young pitchers, since the team always needs depth.

Scouts from other organizations, however, have had their eyes on hard throwers in the low Minors who could be used to fill needs.
What are those needs? If the talent in the rotation produces, the places to look are the bullpen (where the organization is not as deep, unless some starters help out in relief) and catching (where there is talent, but inexperience from the top down).
But who's to say the Rockies will jump?
This spring, they had the injury to Desmond, and lost power-hitting rookie catcher Tom Murphy to a hairline fracture of the right forearm and outfielder David Dahl because of a stress reaction in a rib.
Murphy was a potentially challenging loss to overcome. The season-opening catchers will likely be Tony Wolters, in his second year, and Dustin Garneau, who has had brief Major League work the past two seasons. Yet the Rockies made no move when Derek Norris became a free agent when he was released by the Nationals earlier this month. Norris was later signed by the Rays.
Injuries and performance issues could change the outlook by the time the horse grows up and finds the cart. But the Rockies have established how they will operate. They believe in their own.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and** like his Facebook page**.